Ok, so it's not Young Frankenstein genius, just a FanPost I started a couple weeks ago that I thought I better get posted. The observations are based on my memory, stat look ups, re-watching some games from the past couple of years, and seeing some of the guys in Rockford. Might serve as a good primer for those of you who have been away.
Well, it's time to start talking serious hockey and to take a look at what might be our roster for this year. Picking the opening day roster and Q's lines is about as easy as a throwing darts while being interrogated by Inspector Kemp, but I'm going to give it a try.
I'm obviously more of a visual type of person, so it's easier for me to analyze the potential roster with some colorful graphics. The numbers next to each player's name are the lines I expect them to play on. The colors are broken down after the jump.
Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane
These two obviously aren't going to move around much. Coach Q might flip flop them and give Hossa some time with Toews and Kane some time with Sharp since they seem to have chemistry, but it should be rare that we see them on the same line.
These are the players who I feel are a lock at their spots and won't get juggled much. I personally can't see things any other way here. Moving Bolland up to the 2nd line and putting Sharp on the wing leaves too much of a drop off down the middle between the top and bottom lines. Plus, there isn't anyone else on the roster who has proven yet that they can be a full-time 3rd line center. Possibly the Hawks pick-up a Madden/Pahlsson type for the playoffs before the deadline, but as things stand the Hawks are among the best teams in the league (if not the best) down the middle.
Except for concerns about Bolland's back, we know what to expect from players in the red and orange categories, so no need to discuss them individually. If you asked me though who I thought from the Hawks worked out the hardest this past offseason, my guess would be Toews and Bolland. Despite my apprehension to declare Bolland the 2nd line center of the future, I am very excited to see him anchor the 3rd line, especially after last year's playoffs. Hopefully he can improve at the dot. Look for Toews to take over the league lead in that stat. If Bolland has an exceptional year, that'll also give the Hawks a lot of flexibility next summer.
These guys will make the opening day roster and play the biggest part in Q's juggling act.
Troy Brouwer (1, 2, 3) - Expectations are high for Troy after his performance last year during the regular season. If he plays up to those expectations (and I believe he will), there's no reason he won't spend most of the season on the top two lines. But even if he's performing well, Q will still be playing around with the lines and for that reason he'll probably see time on the 3rd line as well.
Tomas Kopecky (2, 3)- The fan favorite and team leader in Stanley Cups. He does most everything pretty decently and nothing very well, but he's got more experience than any other yellow category forward and has earned his chance for a spot on the 2nd line. Unfortunately for Kopecky, the Hawks are pretty well stacked on the left side with Brouwer, Bickell, Stalberg, and even Skille possibly vying for the top spots. Therefore, I expect he'll spend most of his days on the 3rd line where he should do fine at right wing if his post-Olympics play carries over into this year.
Bryan Bickell (1, 2, 3, 4)- He's tough and has decent offensive skills for a big man. He's also one of the more versatile players of the new forwards in the yellow category in that he can play - when he wants - all four lines effectively. If Brouwer doesn't start off strong, Bickell could battle him for a power forward spot on one of the top lines. Like Byfuglien, Bickell's biggest weakness is his apparent lack of focus. But whereas Byfuglien often looked lost when he wasn't parked in front of the net, Bickell's basically the opposite. He needs to improve his net presence compared to his size, but I have high hopes for Bickell and expect a 30-35 pt season from him if he's not stuck on the 4th line. Bolland and Bickell together could prove to be a very annoying combination for opponents.
Viktor Stalberg (1, 2, 3)- A lot of people are high on Stalberg. He's got some size and incredible speed and has made some pretty highlight reel goals. I'm excited about him too, but at the same time my enthusiasm is tempered by his past statistics. His NHL stats are a small sample and his stats from prior years are as inconsistent as Sam's rumored accounting methods. I've also only watched him play twice and have limited knowledge of his defensive capabilities. Will he blossom on a speedy team like the Hawks? Let's hope.
Jack Skille (3, 4)- He was drafted 7th overall in 2005, he's still only 23, and he's a Badger which should help many of you get over Burish. After three years in Rockford, he took a more than 50% pay cut/pay raise (he was really only making $50k while playing in Rockford) for the chance to play in the bigs. The Hawks have a lot of time invested in him and he's on a one year deal, so it's make or break for Skille. He put up some good numbers for the Hogs and has improved annually, but didn't look like anything special while doing the Rockford shuffle. He's yet another natural power forward, has great speed and admittedly likes to crash the net (which was also mentioned by Sam). He gets taken off the puck too easily, but with some improvement he could eventually be a good addition to the 3rd line. His time on the PK has grown annually in Rockford and he's always a shorthanded scoring threat. He's got some "Skillez"; he just needs to use them.
Jake Dowell (4)- Dowell was never meant to be anything more than a 4th line center in the NHL and that's about all you should expect from him. Another Badger, like Burish he will be counted on to bring energy and abrasiveness to the Hawks roster. He's good at the dot and on the PK which will be welcomed.
Fernando Pisani (3, 4) - It's hard to find a bad word written about Fernando Pisani. I've read countless articles stating that he's a veteran workhorse and good teammate who doesn't take a shift off. He also has excellent PK skills which is apparently why the Hawks picked him up. Unfortunately he has UC - which is always a health risk for players spending too many years in Edmonton - and it will limit his playing time. He was a scoring machine in juniors and over the past 10 years in the AHL and NHL he has consistently averaged just under .5 pts/game. His offensive production dropped off considerably in limited time last season, but his knack for being well positioned defensively hopefully remains.
These are the guys who I assume will make the roster but might spend a lot of time in the press box.
Ryan Potulny (3, 4) - Another pick up from the Oilers, Potulny is listed as a center, but probably lacks the size or game to hold down the 4th line spot if Dowell was to fumble the opportunity or get injured. I believe it was McClure who suggested Potulny was seeing some time at wing last year for this reason. At 26, he's no spring chicken and has had his annual cup of coffee in the NHL since 2005. He has a total of 116 NHL games, 64 of them coming last season when he scored 32 points. During that 5 year period he was also a point per game player in the AHL, so there might be some potential there if he can find a spot on the roster. If Skille or Pisani get scratched, expect to see Potulny fill their place.
Jeff Taffe (4)- Taffe's on a one-way contract with one year remaining. Did the Hawks pick him up in the Reasoner salary dump as Rockford emergency insurance or to add a veteran to the 4th line who can also play center? At 29 he's a former 1st round draft pick who has already switched teams six times. He has spent every... single... season... since 2002 splitting time between the AHL and NHL. He's lit it up in the AHL as a regular point-per-game producer, but that success has never translated to the NHL where he's been pretty much exclusively used on the 4th line. He's also god-awful at the dot.
So why should this year be any different? It won't be. I know he's a name that you don't hear much, but I think he makes the opening roster partially to add a veteran presence to a still relatively young team and 4th line. More importantly though, who really cares if Taffe rots away in the press box? Better him than one of the Hawks' young prospects. He's got good size and obviously has some skills. He'll be up with the big club until someone like Beach gets a little seasoning in Rockford.
These players probably won't be on the opening day roster, but will eventually see some time in Chicago.
Kyle Beach (1, 2, 3, 4) - Can I say anything more about the 2nd coming of Christ that hasn't been said already? He's got size, speed, skills, strength, spirit - and no experience. The Hawks have been grooming his public image, so he might be a dark horse to make the team. My money says he spends a good part of the season in Rockford before he gets his shot. Beach is quite versatile so he would be a nice addition, especially if Q wants to shake thing up a bit.
Igor Makarov (2, 3)- Like Stalberg, another player that many commenters are excited about, but yet again his past stats don't tell the same story as the buzz surrounding him. It has been suggested that part of the reason for this is the lack of playing time he received in the KHL due to his comparatively young age. I'll leave the boner-inducing player summary to hockeysfuture:
A good skater with a strong foot speed and acceleration...possesses an effortless stride and an above-average agility...above average balance for a smallish player...deceptive puck handling skills...can fight and maneuver his way out of tight spaces regularly...able to succeed in one-on-one situations...knows how to get into position for a scoring opportunity...possesses a fast-released wrist shot...needs to work on the hardness of the slap shot...plays with lots of energy and is effective on the back check...a tight forechecker...average defensive awareness...blocks the opposing passing lanes and spots his man quickly...can throw a decent hit even on a bigger player, but clearly lacks size and physical power...a good asset on both the powerplay and the penalty kill units...isn't a tough hitter, but doesn't play with fear...needs to work on his discipline, as he tends to lose his temper at times...a late 1987 born forward.
Makarov possesses the talent to be a top-six forward but will stay in Russia if his career does not progress overseas.
Based on this, Makarov would be a probable fill-in on the 2nd or 3rd line. The problem again is cracking the line-up. Barring injury to those-whose-names-shall-not-be-spoken, there aren't many opportunities for Makarov. To get one of those spots he'd have to beat out a lot of competition. Since he's on a two-year, two-way contract and many of the other new role players are on one-year deals, I'm not convinced that he wouldn't be better off getting some minutes in Rockford even if he played well enough during pre-season to make the team.
In the next day or two I'll add my defensive breakdowns.
So after reading my thoughts, who are your picks and why? Am I more likely spot on like Inspector Kemp or out the window like Doctor Frankenstein?
Oh, and for those of you who just came here for the dick jokes, here's a quicky I tossed together in order to not let you down. /groan (FYI, this is a real photo. Rocky wasn't 'shopped into it)